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Friday, September 22, 2017

Use Janesville's $583K Earmark For Dark Store Relief

The bold-faced hypocrisy never ends.

The Janesville Gazette posted another one of their unbelievably dumb editorials (their editorials have declined intellectually if anyone thought that was possible), this time scolding residents for suggesting a $583,000 earmark from the state budget be used for tax relief on local property bills.

But, why shouldn't it be used for tax relief? Afterall, Janesville taxpayers, both property and city fee payers, have taken hit after hit since Scott Walker was elected governor, particularly more so over the last three years.

But Gazette staffers have some brass balls to scold anyone wanting tax relief after their boss, Skip Bliss, filed for some tax relief of his own and won a dark store styled settlement of about $65K along with lowered future property tax assessments. Nobody at the newspaper called Bliss a cheapskate or lectured him about being shortsighted. Not at all.

Combine the Bliss award with recent dark store refunds given to GOP donor class Farm and Fleet (327K) and Menards (403K) and we have local taxpayers unexpectedly coughing up an extra $795K. Keep in mind their artificially lowered assessments remain in place for future tax bills, but also because those settlements were paid from city, county and school district funds, Janesville taxpayers end up paying roughly two-thirds (city, school) of those three refund amounts, or about $524K.

So yeah, the $583K earmark is a nice fit to offer taxpayers some relief from those dark store transgressions and leave about $60K to spare.

The Gazette staffers also moan about other factors that have "conspired" to shortchange Janesville.

JG Excerpt:
The state “froze” the shared-revenue formula in 2001, meaning the formula churns out payments based on old data. Two factors have conspired against Janesville: its growing population and lagging equalized property value. The result has been to give Janesville state aid of only $81 per capita, while the average municipality takes in $179.

Only 16 years have passed? Just look at Janesville like its a state-based TIF District because that's exactly what TIFs do - they freeze the shared-revenue paid from rising property tax assessments within the district. Janesville's downtown TIF District is especially egregious in that manner and will continue to pay property taxes to the city's general fund based on assessments established in 2016 for the next 27 years. So, you're upset about shared-revenue payments based on "old data" from only 16 years ago?

Lastly, the Gazette brings up the large budget deficit the city administration racked up...

JG Excerpt:
Last year, the city faced a $950,000 shortfall and contemplated making painful budget cuts and considered having neighbors cut the grass at city parks. The city avoided draconian measures only after it discovered savings from the retirements of several longstanding employees. But it wouldn't take much for the city to find itself facing another shortfall—yet another argument against returning the $583,000 to taxpayers.

When dealing with a budget shortfall, municipalities have few options for balancing their budgets except spending cuts.

Except, ...the city eventually balanced last year's $950,000 shortfall NOT with noticeable budget cuts, but with 80 fee increases expected to bring in $2.3 million in new revenue. Kind of forgot that little tidbit - didn't you?

To top that off, the same Janesville Gazette editorial staff then scolded residents for NOT opposing those fee increases ...I kid you not, and now they're scolding residents asking for some crumbs in tax relief.

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